- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2001

For a little more than two hours yesterday, Legg Mason Tennis Classic officials reveled in the knowledge that Pete Sampras, a 13-time Grand Slam winner and arguably the greatest champion the sport has seen, had announced he would play in the tournament.
Sampras, who had first intimated last week in Cincinnati that he would play the District's ATP tour stop, didn't definitively commit to play until he contacted tournament officials yesterday around 4 p.m. to declare his intentions.
Then things changed.
Around 6:30 p.m. yesterday, Sampras' agent, Jeff Schwartz of AMG, called tournament director Jeff Newman to say Sampras had suffered an unspecified hand injury during practice and would not play the Legg Mason. The decision stunned Newman and tournament officials, who were prepared albeit briefly to add arguably the greatest American player to a field already brimming with talent.
"It's unfortunate. We did the best we could do," Newman said. "It would have been great [to have Sampras], no question. It would have been fantastic. However, heading up until this day, we were planning on not having him."
Sampras had been entered to play the Legg Mason once before in the mid-1990s but pulled out of that event as well. Newman said Sampras had refrained from committing to playing this week to make sure he felt healthy and ready.
"He did end up on our acceptance list, although it wasn't confirmed that he would necessarily play," said Newman, "so that's the reason why we certainly weren't counting on it."
Phone calls to Schwartz's office were not returned.
Sampras, who turns 30 today, had his string of four straight Wimbledon titles broken this year, and has not won a tournament in more than a year. Still, the venerable "Pistol Pete" has the most career titles of any active player (63) and would have joined top-seeded and world No. 2 Andre Agassi in the tournament, bringing two names the likes of which the District has not seen in men's tennis.
Even without Sampras, ranked No. 12 in the world, the tourney field is high caliber Agassi, returning champ Alex Corretja (No. 10), and up-and-coming American Andy Roddick (No. 27) will play.
"We still have a fantastic field still the best player field we've ever had," Newman said.
Sampras lost last week at Cincinnati in the second round in straight sets to Alberto Martin.
Rain, rain, go away
The torrential downpours that ravaged the area yesterday halted qualifying play for the tournament. The first wave of thundershowers swept through around 2:30 p.m. and after the rain briefly subsided around 3 p.m., it picked up again.
Seven of the 14 scheduled matches were completed before the remaining ones were postponed to today. The second round of qualifying must be completed today, so some players will have to play twice today. Qualifying play begins at 11 a.m.
Local flavor
In a match that was completed before the rains came, recent University of Virginia graduate Huntley Montgomery was dismissed in the first round of qualifying play, 6-2, 6-0 by Wayne Black. But considering Montgomery learned that he had been awarded a chance to qualify just about 12 hours before yesterday's match, he didn't have a lot to be upset about.
Montgomery teamed with Brian Vahaly to reach the NCAA semifinals in doubles this spring for the Cavaliers, and both are in the midst of launching pro careers. Montgomery is quickly learning how rigorous things can be for an aspiring pro he flew in Friday night from Missouri, where he had been playing Futures events, to try to qualify for the Legg Mason's main draw. He said he was still bothered by jet lag and didn't have the usual spring in his legs.
"Had I known a couple days in advance [that I would play] things might have been different," Montgomery said. "But I can't complain… . I was grateful just to get in here."
Several of Montgomery's fraternity brothers and Virginia tennis teammates were in attendance to support him, and though Montgomery's match started at 11 a.m., they had already consumed a few adult beverages. After his quick exit, Montgomery joked that he "might have needed one" himself.
In other qualifying action yesterday, American Alex O'Brien, known more for his doubles play, upset the top seed in the qualifying draw, South African Neville Godwin, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. The six matches postponed from yesterday (plus one in progress) will be played today, including winners of today's seven matches will be entered into the main draw and begin play tomorrow.
On tap
The tournament's top four seeds are No. 1 Agassi, No. 2 Corretja, No. 3 Tommy Haas and No. 4 Fabrice Santoro. Match times will be announced today.

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